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Marconi Museum

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William Henry Preece

In February 1896 Marconi moved with his mother to London, in order to promote his recent invention. He was assisted by his cousin Henry Jameson Davis, who would later introduce Marconi to the man, William Preece, who would play a key role in the beginning of his career.

Born in Wales, Preece studied under Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution in London where he became an electrical engineer. He then worked for the General Post Office and in 1892 was appointed their chief engineer. Preece studied and experimented with telephony and wireless telegraphy, but above all he worked as manager and scientific director. It was in this position that he often found himself in conflict with the élite of the British scholars.

Preece was born in 1834, forty years before Marconi. Regardless of his age, he was quick to realise that the appearance of this young man in London was in answer to the many confused expectations presented by the new communication tools. Not only did he take Marconi seriously, but he also organised a demonstration of the new equipment from the roofs of London. He also allowed Marconi to use the Post Office facilities in order to experiment with long distance transmissions, first on Salisbury Plain and later in the Bristol channel.

On 12 December 1896 a memorable conference was held at the Royal Institution. William Preece announced the birth of Marconi's new and exciting communication system and the decision of the Post Office to support the Italian inventor. From that day on wireless telegraphy officially moved from within the confines of the laboratory out into the public domain.

In the summer of 1897, while experiments were recommencing and relations between Marconi and the Post Office were strengthening, his cousin Jameson Davis proposed that they found a company together. After deliberating for a while, Marconi agreed and the Marconi Company was formed, bringing to an end the partnership with William Preece. As a consequence, their relations started to deteriorate rapidly, thus creating many difficulties to Marconi in England, that he could only overcome thanks to his radio telegraphic system’s proven efficiency.

Preece died in 1913 at the age of seventy nine, having lived to see his protégé win the Nobel Prize for Physics, in 1909.



























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